Northland Winter Weather Outlook 2019-2020

The Northland Gears Up for Another Long Winter

DULUTH, Minn. — It’s time for the 2019-2020 Winter Weather Outlook from our Fox 21 Meteorologists!

While we’re still a month away from the official start of winter, snow arrives earlier in the Northland and sticks around beyond March!  We’ve already seen big snow events this season with a “Winter Storm Warning” across the Snowbelt with more than a foot of snow in Ironwood, Michigan!

In a typical snow season, Duluth, Minnesota, averages about 86 inches while, International Falls, Minnesota, picks up about 71 inches.

With “lake effect snow”, Hurley, Wisconsin, averages over 170 inches of snow — almost twice the amount Duluth gets!

In Duluth, last winter lasted more seven months from the first measurable snow on October 10th to the last one on May 19th.

We picked up 36.4 inches of snow in February 2019 making it the snowiest February on record.  While we saw snow in March and April, we saw the snowiest May on re record in Duluth with 13.3″!

Duluth ended the 2018-2019 snow season with almost 107″ of snow, making it the 15th snowiest on record!

As we prepare for another winter, this year the National Weather Service will be introducing a “snow squall warning”.

Joe Moore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth says these rare warnings will be for a short duration for about 30 to 60 minutes “for when we have really dangerous road conditions that are about to occur either from very lows visibility for a short amount of time or road temperatures that are diminishing that can cause roads to become very icy, very fast.”

The main goal of a meteorologist is to provide timely and accurate forecasts to save lives and property, but that’s becoming more difficult with social media.  Many times, in the winter, outrageous snowfall forecast maps are shared much to the dismay of responsible and credible meteorologists.

Moore adds, “if it’s a forecast page called ‘Joe’s forecast page’, it’s probably not a reliable forecast” and that you should always get your winter storm forecast from local meteorologists, “we’re looking at what the temperatures are actually like down by the lake, we’re looking at what they’re like on the hill, how the conditions are going to change.  we’re going to be able to produce the best forecast that’s going to be the most reliable.”

Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the changes and challenges of forecasting in the Northland, we need to look at the bigger picture.  With climate change making headlines, will potential warming in the Northland affect our winter?

Reality is that as the west burns, the south swelters, and the east floods, some Americans are starting to even reconsider where they choose to live.  Just last week, Venice saw the worst tides in 50 years and their mayor is blaming climate change.

From Venice to various parts of the Northland, lake levels are at record highs and flooding has become a major concern through the region.  However, this past April Duluth was named a “climate refuge city”.

Duluth Mayor Emily says, “Isn’t that so interesting, well he said we were, yeah.  So this climatologist from Harvard has done research that suggests people are moving out of cities that are too hot or are at risk of fire or climate impacts that they will be seeking places to move to and Duluth is on that list.”

Research suggests nowhere in the world is immune from climate change, including Duluth.

The Great Lakes area will be one of the few places in America where the effects of climate change may be more easily managed according to climate projections.  So does that affect our winter outlook this year?

Minnesota Public Radio Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner, “the trends on snowfall with climate change in Minnesota are still unclear. What is clear is that winter is the fastest warming season in Minnesota. We’ve warmed about five degrees since 1970 in Minnesota on average.”

Fluctuating temperatures year to year, it’s still plenty cold enough to snow in the Northland and some of the heaviest snow storms pile up in prime temperatures of 28 to 32 degrees.  Huttner adds, “So the jury is still out, Minnesota is getting wetter and since it is, it’s still cold enough to snow in winter. We’ve seen some pretty prolific snow years in the last few years.”

Minnesota Climate Specialist Kenny Blumenfeld says, “I think the biggest trend that we’ve observed recently has been the increase in winter temperatures and especially the low temperatures on the coldest days of the year. Even though we can usually still depend on winter, it can be a little more variable where sometimes the middle of winter isn’t what you’d usually expect it to be. So we get sort of a weakening of winter.”

Barely noticeable warming overnight lows does affect us here.  The weakening of winter has indeed been felt in Hayward, Wisconsin, when the American Birkibiner was cancelled in 2017.

The Snowbelt has noticed a difference.  Ironwood, Michigan snow plow driver John Kallas tells us, “The winters aren’t as bad as I remember when I was a kid. We used to get 300 inches of snow a year.  It’s gone down a lot. The weather patterns have changed, but we still get a lot!”

With changes year to year, we dive into all the aspects to give you an accurate forecast.

This year, we’re in a neutral phase meaning neither El Nino or La Nina are driving our winter weather patterns this year.  So, we look at the Arctic Oscillation to steer and it’s a wild ride that changes our jet stream week to week fluctuating our snow storm targets and cold snaps.

For this year, the winter temperature outlook has a majority of the nation warmer than average.

As for our forecast for the 2019–2020 winter weather season, in Duluth, we will see average to slightly above average temperatures.  But, don’t be fooled.  We will still get our Arctic cold snaps and we can expect to see above average snowfall with approximately 5 to 6 major storms hitting the Northland!

In northern Minnesota and inland areas of Wisconsin around 70″ to 80″ is likely, while in Duluth and up the North Shore 90″-100″ is expected.

And, along the South Shore and Snowbelt, snow totals will range from 180″-190″.

After all, it is the Northland and we’re the heartiest and most prepared, so enjoy this winter season to its fullest!

Categories: Community, Environment, Features, Minnesota, News, News – Latest News, Public Safety, Special Reports, Weather Blog, Weather in the News, Wisconsin